“John, hey John, where have you been? I haven’t seen you in forever.”

“Oh, hi Eddie. I’ve been busy.”

“Busy? I thought you retired last year. We missed you at the 50th class reunion. You must have been on that European tour you always wanted to take.”

John said, “No, I’ve not been traveling. I’ve been home with my mom. She’s not been doing too well. It’s been like a full-time job with lots of overtime. I have a book that calls it “The 36-Hour Day”.”

“Hey, I’ll take that. What’s the pay? Is there double overtime? It wouldn’t take long for me to earn enough to spend a month in Hawaii and to travel first class all the way.”

John said, “There are no vacations on this job. It’s not a joke. The 36-Hour Day is like the Bible for people who care for family members with dementia. It’s often called “Alzheimer’s”, but whatever you call it, Mom has it.”

Eddie said, “I’m sorry I got flip. I didn’t know. It keeps you close to home?”

“Thirty-six hours a day is what it feels like. I never know what she will do next.”

“Don’t you have any help? Where’s Helen?”

“We divorced. A year or so ago when I had to spend more and more time with Mom, Helen felt neglected. One day she said, ‘Okay, John, enough’s enough. Your mom or me? Put her in a nursing home’. We divorced.”

Eddie said, “Geez guy, that’s tough going. Doesn’t your brother help?”

“He thinks he’s being helpful. He never comes by, but he’s like Helen. He says, ‘Put her in a nursing home and I’ll help pay for her.’ I turned him down.”

Eddie said, “I don’t know all that much about Alzheimer’s except people have memory loss.”

“It’s dementia, but let’s go drink some coffee and I’ll tell you more than you want to know.” At McDonalds, he continued, “My day starts at six AM. Mom keeps a rigid schedule of bed at ten and up at six whether she sleeps or not. I hear her in the kitchen as she makes her coffee and gets a bowl of cereal and takes them back to her bedroom to eat. I listen to make sure she turned off the water in the sink and closed the refrigerator door. If all is well, I’ll drift back to sleep until seven. I get up, take her morning pills back to her and watch her take them.

The disarray of her mental life show up as personal disorganization. I pick up clothing(she changes often) so she doesn’t trip and fall. She has balance issues and even with a walker and canes, falls are common. I’ll spare you any more details, but in general I do all the cooking, shopping laundry, housekeeping.

We took her car keys five years ago so I drive her to doctor and dentist. That’s always a challenge for she’s a loose cannon in public. I never know what personal stories from the past she will tell to strangers in the waiting room. Recently, her hearing has deteriorated which limits communication ever more than before. I write her notes for important stuff. At ten, after she turns out her light, I wait and hope she won’t stumble and fall in the dark.”

Eddie said, “Okay, I get it. It looks to me like your mom is already in a nursing home, except you are the full-time nursing staff of one.”

“That’s why they call it “The 36-Hour Day.”

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